Screening and Screening Tools

DoD promotes the use of empirically supported screening and assessment procedures. Screening identifies those who exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and determines who should receive full evaluation from a trained mental health care provider.

Screening for PTSD Guidelines:

•At the first visit, new patients should be screened for symptoms of PTSD, and then on an annual basis or more frequently as clinically indicated.[1] Individuals exposed to a trauma should be assessed for the type, frequency, nature, and severity of the trauma.


•Annually during the Periodic Health Assessment (PHA)


•Within 60 days of deployment using the Pre-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA)(link is external)


•30 days after return from deployment and three to six months after return from deployment using the Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA)(link is external)/Reassessment (PDHRA)(link is external)

DoD Policy Guidance

Screening for PTSD in Primary Care

The DoD patient-centered medical home (PCMH) initiative includes mandatory annual screening for PTSD (among other mental health conditions) for all beneficiaries of the Military Health System. Primary care offers an ideal setting to educate patients and their families about PTSD and treatment options. Screening for PTSD in primary care may include the Primary Care-PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD), followed by the PTSD Checklist (PCL) if the PC-PTSD is positive. These measures can assess treatment progress or changes to clinical presentation with repeated administrations.

PTSD Screening Tools

Primary Care-PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
The PC-PTSD is a six-item (yes/no) screening measure for use in primary care and other medical settings. Patients screen positive if they answer “yes” to three or more items and should receive further evaluation for PTSD.

PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)
The PCL-5 is a 20-item self-report tool using a 0-4 Likert scale, appropriate for use in screening individuals for PTSD, making a provisional PTSD diagnosis and monitoring PTSD symptom change during and after treatment. It aligns with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria for PTSD. There are three formats: (1) includes criterion A component (stressor); (2) without a criterion A component; (3) extended criterion A component along with the Life Events Checklist for the DSM-5 (LEC-5).